1 Nenokkadine


I love Sukumar’s Arya 2, I think Mahesh is a very good actor, the story had been talked up and the budget was huge with lots of big sets and fancy locations. Unfortunately 1 Nenokkadine is more like two films thrown together than a cohesive whole  – one a complex psychological thriller and one a mass shoot ‘em up blow ‘em up. I can’t avoid one big spoiler although I don’t want to discuss the plot in much detail. But ultimately Sukumar fails to fully capitalise on either the big idea or the big star.

Note: I didn’t get to see this in a cinema as the screen caught fire at the first show and that was that! (No one was hurt.) Since I tried to see this legally but was prevented by an act of god, I wasn’t conflicted about using more dubious means available until the DVD releases.

Anyway. What to believe when the hero is an unreliable narrator? This should have been an interesting conundrum but unfortunately 1 Nenokkadine is full of holes and the direction is clunky.

Gautam (Mahesh) is a rockstar. He is prone to nightmares and constantly on guard against the men who killed his parents and want to finish him off. When Gautam sees one of the men in the audience of his show, he takes off initially in fear but then in pursuit and kills the guy. Gautam turns himself in to the police, clearly disturbed but aware he has done something wrong. He was chased by Sameera, apparently some kind of production staff on the show who is also a journalist and squealy fangirl. She films the fatal encounter and reveals the truth about Gautam – he was hallucinating the whole thing. There was no other man, no fight and no stabbing.  Gautam’s backstory finally emerges when he ingeniously tracks down Nasser who says he was a cab driver 20 years ago…And that sends them off to London and the high adrenalin second half of the film. And yet once again, nothing is as it seems.

Mahesh is very good and his dramatic scenes really do have urgency, conveying  Gautam’s pain and frustration. The scenes where Gautam is hanging on by a thread, fighting his inner demons, are so well acted but often undermined by the direction. Mahesh can do a lot with silence and minimal histrionics but Sukumar lays on tricky visuals where he could have just let the performance breathe. There is zero chemistry with Kriti Sanon, and their romance was of the desultory insta-love variety, an obligatory element. A hero with integration disorder opens up a lot of possibilities for turning mass film tropes inside out. But there is little logic, and so much bad filmi medicine, that the mental illness almost becomes irrelevant. Gautam is a man who cannot trust anyone and is out for personal revenge. Now he learns he cannot trust himself. How had he functioned for the last 20 odd years if he was prone to such vivid and realistic delusions? Why had no one around him noticed anything odd given he had ‘killed’ before? There was no reason for him to be a rockstar other than as a change of image for Mahesh, so why not have more fun with the new career? And it takes everyone far too long to unravel the screamingly obvious Significant Clue.

Kriti Sanon’s Sameera takes about half the film to find her feet, partly because she is a fairly ordinary actress and partly due to the patchy writing. Sameera lies, confuses Gautam, and finally says she is doing it all to cure him because she loves him. Yeah, whatever.  And the idea that if you love someone you have to believe them takes no account of mental illness which by definition means a person may struggle to have awareness or control of their thoughts and resulting actions. I would normally complain about drugging the heroine but I was as ready as Gautam to have a break from her.  Luckily one day Sameera recalls she is a journalist and so should be capable of thinking and research. Maybe she found her brain when she swapped handbags. She starts to put together the attacks on her, the men following Gautam, things, and links it back to the underworld don (Kelly Dorjee).

Comedy rears its ugly head as Gulab Singh (Posani Krishna Murali as a London based Sikh taxi driver) is tasked with facilitating Gautam’s revenge logistics. Pradeep Rawat, Kelly Dorjee and Nasser are the main supporting actors and deliver their usual reliable standard of performances.

The songs are an interruption and do nothing for the plot. Kriti Sanon prances about in micro shorts all the time so Aww Tuzo Mogh Kortha wasn’t an excuse for a skinshow, although she did also get some guitar fondling into her repertoire. The English lyrics are horribly cheesy, especially for You’re My Love, and nobody seems to be having fun. But don’t take my word for it.

Mahesh has very similar choreo for every song so that was a bit lacklustre too.

Peter Hein puts all the right elements into the action scenes but repetition and sluggish editing sap the energy. How could a chase involving jet skis, boats, a parasail and hydro jet packs be tedious? There are also some things that are glossed over (e.g escaping from an underwater car) where they either lacked budget or an idea of how to extricate the hero from his impending doom. Sukumar is trying for a psychological edge but replaying a shot of Kelly Dorjee throwing a can into a bin multiple times to show Gautam thinking of using the rubbish as physical evidence is just painful.

The locations are used well, and the film looks beautiful. There are some really nice touches that add style and even humour. Mahesh’s son Gautham appears as young Gautam (those ears! Instantly recognisable).The threat of Indian fans forming a mob is enough to get the police to rethink keeping Gautam in jail, but then everything else functions as though the Belfast police are identical to the Andhra police so what is the point of that cultural in-joke? It’s all very disjointed and seems to have been written by committee. Oh but Nasser’s flashback wig is a doozy. I think it is the poorer cousin of The Wig from Shakti. And for the hardcore  Mahesh fans, yes he does a shower scene so you will see naked upper back. The glimpses of princely elbow are now old hat so no need to mention there are approximately 437 of those throughout the film. I think our friend The Mahesh Fan would approve of the brainy specs. Oh you want proof?

In a good psychological thriller once the twist is revealed the story should be enriched, and the viewer should be able to re-interpret scenes with their new knowledge. I think films like The Prestige and even Sixth Sense did that extremely well. Sukumar couldn’t make his own mind up about the film he was making so ended up with an overly long muddle that wouldn’t completely satisfy either full-on Mahesh fans or the psycho-drama audience.

A schizophrenic film about schizophrenia. 3 stars (mostly for Mahesh).

Heather says:

I enjoyed this film despite a few fairly obvious plot holes and a relative lack of logic at times. Most exciting for me were the scenes shot in Northern Ireland since this is where I grew up and, Game of Thrones aside, it’s rare that I get to see my home country on screen. There was something slightly surreal about watching Mahesh Babu run across Carrick-a-rede bridge, past Scrabo tower and wander through the streets of Whitehead, particularly when you know just how far apart those places are in reality! That aside, there is much to enjoy in Nenokkadine. Mahesh is in ultra-brooding mode with his fierce intensity somehow out of place for a supposed rock star. That’s probably my main question – why make him a rock star? Where are his security people and minions to run and pander to his every whim – if he’s as famous as implied here then he does seem to travel very light. His performance however is excellent and as the story unfolds it becomes ever more believable that he has a mental illness with his intense and chilly stare.

Apart from the scenes in Northern Ireland (which I have now forced my entire family to watch) I love when a frog hops away from the fight and the action sequence in the bathroom is fantastic.  Peter Hein comes through again! Thankfully there is no annoying separate comedy track to detract from the thriller nature of the story and although the romance wasn’t particularly well realised at least it did give a respite from all the brooding. Nenokkadine is a good attempt at a rather more psychological thriller and while parts of the story are familiar at times, overall I do like the way Sukumar thinks. I love his tendency to make his heroes somewhat damaged and their flaws make them more interesting (Arya 2 is still my all time favourite Telugu film) but at least for this film I would have liked him to branch out a little more from Telugu formula and ditch the songs. I know that’s odd coming from me, since I usually want more songs, but dance numbers just don’t work particularly well in a thriller, and here the tension falters every time the action is disrupted by a song. However, I still did enjoy Nenokkadine and I’d recommend it as a rather more sophisticated thriller from Sukumar and for the excellent performance from Mahesh. 4 stars.

100% Love

I was hoping that 100% Love would be closer to the Sukumar of Arya 2 (one of my favourite films) than of Jagadam (not a favourite). It wasn’t quite up to that high standard but I still found lots to enjoy including one of the more likeable heroine roles I’ve seen recently.

Chaitanya, son of legend Nagarjuna, is Balu. Balu is a top student, and seems to get his results by bullying the rest of his household into following a routine that works for him. He is arrogant, emotionally immature and sulky. He sneaks cigarettes, berates his fellow students (I can’t really call them his friends) and his world revolves around himself. His cousin Mahalakshmi (Tamannah) comes to stay at the family home and goes to the same college. Initially just a scatterbrained teenage girl she struggles with classes and with her new domestic routine. She has a crush on Balu and doesn’t trouble to hide it from him. Over the first half of the film, Mahalakshmi adopts a punishing study regime imposed by Balu and grows in confidence and ability. The pair become rivals for the top spot, and collude to stop Ajit (Anand) from stealing Balu’s number one ranking. The plotting and scheming means they grow closer. Their feelings are obvious – or is it just an infatuation that will pass?

The question of infatuation versus love is raised over and over, and both characters grapple with the change in their relationship. Mahalakshmi loves her cousin but she has to adjust to his demanding personality, while he seems to be taken aback by his rebellious hormones. Balu dismisses her as a little girl with a crush and doesn’t take his own feelings towards Maha seriously either. Balu cannot deal with anyone outdoing him, and needs constant reassurance that he and only he is the greatest. When Mahalakshmi fails to give him the adulation he wants, and even worse shows admiration for Ajit, he demands that she leave his family home. Post interval, the story shifts to what happens after this rift. Will they get back together or each marry a new partner? Will Balu ever grow up? Things get complicated, and the story gets a little more dramatic but this never strays very far from standard rom-com territory.

Balu is one dimensional for much of the film, but Chaitanya manages to be appealing, adding small flourishes that make Balu more human. However Balu is so self-centred and joyless that the more light hearted moments don’t always fit. Style wise he is a sharp dressed young man which at first seemed at odds with the character, but as a typical overachiever he dedicates himself to also being top ranked with the ladies. Chaitanya’s performance develops more texture as the relationship with Mahalakshmi also deepens and Balu’s emotional range broadens. When the pair have to work together to avert a crisis, Balu falls back into his childish behaviour and it is up to Mahalakshmi to shake some sense into him. Chaitanya worked hard to make foolish Balu more sympathetic in the second half of the story with flickers of facial expression, subtle reactions and changes in the way he looked at his cousin. He seems to lack the physical confidence to really dominate the dance and fight sequences so those scenes were adequate but not noteworthy. For some unknown reason there was a huge cheer in the theatre every time he lit up a cigarette. Strange!

Tamanna is excellent. She captured the energy and body language of the young girl and showed maturity and confidence as time passed and Mahalakshmi became a young woman. Unlike the boys in the theatre I was a bit tired of seeing her navel, but she did look beautiful. And the belly button scenes weren’t sleazy voyeuristic shots, but often formed part of Maha’s plan to unsettle Balu so were played quite knowingly.  Initially Maha’s mannerisms were irritating and affected but those decreased as she grew up, adapted to college and found her feet. Her portrayal of love for Balu was convincing and the dramatic scenes were high on emotion but not overdone. She was full of light hearted happiness in the beginning, so when things went off the rails there was more contrast for Tamanna to work with and she excelled. I’ve only seen her in a couple of films and was really impressed by this performance.

The comedy is mostly integral to the story and so occasionally it is even amusing. Chaitanya and Tamannah had nice timing and they bounced dialogue back and forth with great pace and energy. The audience laughed uproariously throughout some speeches. Comedy uncle (Dharmavarapu Subramanyam) is instantly recognisable by his terrible wig, and MS Narayan heads the college. There are running jokes throughout the film – if you can’t stand the sight of fried chicken this is not the film for you! Another running gag is a funny yet bittersweet Shah Rukh/Kajol joke. There are also six wisecracking kids learning to be geniuses from Balu. They aren’t terrible but I’m not a fan of the cutesy child artists for the most part. It takes an exceptional child actor, probably only Master Titoo in his purple ruffly outfit accessorised with Shashi Kapoor, to make me not long for the DVD fast forward. The supporting cast seemed fine, but I gave them minimum attention as I was concentrating on the dialogue heavy main story. The visual effects are frequently clumsy so I did find them underwhelming.

The songs range from average (Aho Balu) to quirky (A Squared) to excellent (Diyalo Diyala) and Devi Sri Prasad matches the mood and characters well. The choreography is limited for both the leads, with no long shots or protracted sequences. Chaitanya looked like he was concentrating very hard on some steps but he didn’t hold back. Maybe he should book a stint at Bunny Boot Camp before the next film? The ANR and NTR tribute song was short but fun. The execution of the dance steps could have been a little more polished, but Tamanna always looked like she was having a great time. The songs generally fit the story, apart from Diyalo Diyala which I think had the story written to fit it but that was such a good call.

I enjoyed 100% Love more than I expected to. Tamannah stole the show so if you want to see a light romantic comedy with an engaging heroine, this might be just the ticket.


Ram’s second film, Jagadam, is a dark and violent gangster film and is certainly very different from his debut role in Devadasu. Supposedly loosely based on the Brazilian film City of God, it’s less an exposé of gangland life but purports to be a moralistic tale of the consequences of violence.

Ram plays Seenu, a wannabe rowdy who becomes fascinated by violence as a child.  Perhaps this is because the area around him is rife with thugs and petty crime, or maybe just because he is a rather warped child. The local community, including the corrupt police, both fear and revere the rowdies who control the area. Seenu dreams of becoming like his hero, the local Don, Manikyam (Pradeep Rawat).

Seenu has a talent for fighting which comes in handy as he works his way up the ranks from small time thugto head his own group of initially ineffectual youths.  His recklessness and lack of anything approaching common sense is amply demonstrated in one of the early scenes when his gang is outnumbered by a knife-wielding mob. Seenu is the only one who doesn’t retreat and ends up at the front of the group – the position that, in his eyes, makes him the leader. As such he is prepared to fight and of course, since he is the hero, wins against such impossible odds.

All of this is fairly normal gangster fare, but the film introduces some more interest in the character of Seenu’s younger brother Chinna. He idolises his brother and is fascinated by his knives and guns. The way in which this adulation is used to develop the story line in the later scenes is one of the strengths of the film, which otherwise is yet another blood soaked gangland war saga.

In the middle of Seenu’s rise to notoriety, he falls in love with Subbalakshmi (Isha Sahni). Subbalakshmi appears to be an intelligent girl; after all she is a Mahesh fan, albeit an obsessed one. Unfortunately director and writer Sukumar has given her every single characteristic we deplore in a filmi heroine. She is whiney, irritating and not just totally useless but an actual liability in a fight. She wears skimpy clothes when wandering round unsavoury areas at night. And as the final insult, Subbalakshmi tells Seenu that when a girl says no, she doesn’t actually mean it. At this point we were ready to slap her ourselves.

Why she falls in love with Seenu is a mystery as well, since he is totally inept in wooing her. He follows the usual stalker method and just assumes that since he likes her she will automatically love him back. Sadly, this does seem to be her only motivation, although perhaps his willingness to dress up in the latest Mahesh costume she bought for him was a factor. She also has an interesting, if not recommended technique for removing a foreign body from Seenu’s eye – hm!

We do like that the intermission is called an interruption, but it does mark the point where the film starts to lose its way a little. Seenu eventually has a falling out with Manikyam and ends up crossing machetes with Manikyam’s source of political funding; the industrialist Yadav, slimily portrayed by Satya Prakash. The story is totally unbelievable at this point as the difference between the well equipped seasoned killers employed by Manikyam and Seenu’s youthful gang is ludicrous. However this doesn’t stop various members of the community approaching Seenu for his rather simplistic aid. Meanwhile Chinna has been avidly following his brother’s exploits and admiring his lifestyle, much in the same way that Seenu idolised Manikyam.  When finally Seenu heads off to kill Yadav, his younger brother wants to watch but events do not unfold as anyone anticipated. This does however mean that we get to see Prakash Raj in his familiar cop avatar expounding truth and justice and using a white board to illustrate the ‘cycle of violence’.

Ram plays the cocky and arrogant character of Seenu with ease. He manages to bring enough of his chirpy ‘boy next door’ persona to the rather dark role and makes Seenu a more sympathetic character despite his arrogance and obsession with violence. Seenu’s friends are from the usual pool of young actors, and in the main they manage to bring some individuality to their various characters. Pradeep Rawat is good in his fairly small role as Manikyam, and gives his scenes some badly needed menace. Ravikumar Chowdary also turns in a convincing performance as Ladanna in the first half, but disappears towards the end of the film. Ragubabu and Saranya are rather wasted as Seenu’s parents and Satya Prakash has very little to do in his role as Yadav. Isha tries, but her character has few redeeming features so she has to settle for pouting and crying in equal measures.

The music by Devi Sri Prasad is fine but not particularly memorable. Ram is a good dancer and the choreographer has utilised his skills well in the songs. We are happy to see that he shows plenty of commitment to the chicken step and is not afraid to dance while totally covered in mud. It’s always good to see this level of dedication even if it doesn’t totally make sense.

Overall the film doesn’t succeed as an edgy drama, nor does it succeed in its supposed anti-violence message . The moralistic tone at the end fails since it doesn’t seem as if Seenu will ever have to pay for his actions. Within the cycle of violence there is a sense that Seenu could stop any time he wants to, but at heart he is still that kid fascinated by killing. While it starts as an interesting attempt and is worth a watch for Ram’s performance, the film ultimately fails to rise above the standard gangland shoot ‘em up fare.

Heather says: Jagadam tries to be different and send a message about the inevitable consequences of violence. It just doesn’t succeed, as the story still glorifies aggression and shows that a life of crime gets you the girl, plenty of money and adulation from your peers. Take away the gang fights and there is really very little of substance left. The romance is just uninteresting and there is no chemistry between Seenu and Subbalakshmi. I really didn’t care about the couple at all and thought it detracted from what could have been a much edgier drama. Ram’s performance is what makes this watchable and I think he does an excellent job of showing the arrogance and sense of indestructibility that many young people display. His anguish at the end as he realizes the price he has had to pay for his lifestyle is well portrayed and believable. But then it’s promptly diluted by the horrific fight scene immediately afterwards. The sympathy shown by the police chief is at odds to the rest of the film as well, although it does fit better with the pacifist message that seems to have been intended. I’m professionally qualified to say that the best way to remove a foreign body from an eye is not to lick it. Be warned – saliva and eyes should never come into contact! Overall the film just fails to be anything other than average, so it gets 3 stars from me.

Temple says: This is 2 and a bit hours of ‘meh’. Once again, it seems the message the film is supposed to contain is not the message I get;  it glorifies violence, showing it to be the solution to many problems and the province of heroes. I know Seenu loses people he cares about but, as he hasn’t developed any sense throughout the film, there doesn’t seem much hope for character transformation despite a scene supposed to convince us of his redemption. Prakash Raj made the most of his character and opportunities but clearly his whiteboard was wasted on the director! Ram is quite memorable, partly because of his likeable presence, but mostly because of his annoyingly asymmetrical shirts. I don’t think contrast piping and looking like you’ve got your buttons done up wrong is really going to strike fear into your enemies or impress the ladies, but the costume designer had other ideas. Despite a handful of scenes that were strong and sometimes moving, the film just wasn’t grim enough to make the violence angle feel real and wasn’t entertaining enough for it to be a good popcorn film. The overt statement of the anti-violence message was at odds with the implied approval of the hero’s character and decisions. It just didn’t get the balance of light and dark right for my tastes. I give it 2 and 1/2 stars, mostly because despite seeing it twice now I can’t recall much outstanding or noteworthy apart from Ram, those shirts, and the eyeball licking scene. And that’s probably not a recommendation.